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About this book
Joelle is about to lose her husband Marc, who has become obsessed with Ketia, a young Haitian woman. Ketia lies to her family to conceal her liaison with Marc. Joelle’s friend Diane does not realize that her boyfriend Nazim has never told his Muslim family in Morocco about her. Then Nazim gets a letter that threatens his secret.
Alice Zorn leads readers into the lives of a diverse cast of characters struggling with conflicting cultural values and the demands of intimacy. Set against the busy urban mosaic of Montreal, Arrhythmia is a study of betrayal: the large betrayals we commit against our loved ones, and the smaller ones we commit against ourselves.
Excerpt from Part One:
Dear Harold, Thank you for asking me to see this pleasant 47-year-old lady with bleeding hemorrhoids.
Plugged into the Dictaphone, Joelle types quickly. Frank is young for a staff doctor, only in his mid-thirties, but his writing style conveys a certain old-school flavour. Female patients are ladies he invariably describes as interesting or pleasant—the ladies, not their condition or disease. Joelle’s fingers sometimes get mixed up.
Across from her desk hulk the metal filing cabinets with the patients’ charts. Above them hang posters of a colonoscopy procedure. The colourful cartoons show a doctor guiding an endoscope up an intestinal track much like a miner with a lamp exploring a tunnel. Patients can more or less bear the cartoons. They avert their eyes from the magnified photos of real bowels, the glistening carmine and royal blue of live viscera. Frank believes in education, but honestly, Joelle sometimes thinks, his photos and posters must only tighten all those sphincters about to have an exam. A painting of a sailboat would make more sense.
She frowns as she types. Focuses on the words that herald varying degrees of doom. Polypectomy. Adenocarcinoma.
A few times this morning she felt the prickling of tears and had to blink wildly. Marc didn’t say anything yesterday, nor this morning. Though he’s always matter-of-fact before work. Shower, coffee, and toast. Already dressed in nursing scrubs. Glancing through the paper he folds and takes with him.
He can’t have forgotten her birthday because they’re going to his parents’ on the weekend. Yesterday, when Diane phoned to ask if she wanted to go out to celebrate, the four of them, Joelle said that Marc had already made plans. She couldn’t bring herself to tell Diane that he hadn’t mentioned her birthday yet.
"An utterly compelling story written with a clear, cold eye. Zorn's women navigate betrayal by holding filaments of family and friendships so tenuous you never know which lifeline will snap."
"Arrhythmia is a vivid and elegantly written novel with characters so fully realized, so round and warm and fraught with their own hidden desires and wounds, so sincere in both their misapprehensions and their hard-won resolutions, that the reader inhabits them, smells the rich aromas of their cooking, endures the pain of their longing for what is forbidden, rejoices in their moments of triumph and redemption. Arrhythmia holds the reader fast from its opening pages to its wise and satisfying end."
"[Arrhythmia] is a tightly written book; if this book was a scarf, there would be no dropped stitches. Zorn weaves her way through the different lives of her characters in such a way that each crisis parallels another character's crisis.... Alice doesn't mince words—her writing is sparse, tight and lyrical."